The urban forest and the New Plymouth gardener playing Tetris with fruit trees – Stuff

Chanelle Carrick used to have chicken nightmares.
No, not creepy chook dreams, but three real-life horrors named after chefs – Nigella, Annabel and Nadia.
The story of the foul fowls began when a friend gave Chanelle and engineer husband Dave Brown three “miscellaneous” chickens.
In preparation, the couple installed a second-hand coop in their New Plymouth garden, Bayly Terraces.
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“They were constantly escaping and getting into the neighbour’s yard with the dogs and nearly got eaten,” she says.
“They hated us. Every time we went anywhere near them, they squawked and fussed and ran away.”
Only one laid eggs.
During last year’s trail – their first – Chanelle gave a talk on urban chickens for beginners.
“Myself being the beginner,” she says. “One (of the chickens) escaped the day before.”
Finally, they’d had enough of the trio, so sent them to live on a rescue farm for chickens. That’s not a euphemism for getting the chop – it’s a real place.
“We spent last summer rebuilding the chicken coop and Fort Knoxing it and we bought three young chickens.”
The much friendlier red shavers are named after pasta – Penne, Farfalle and Bavette.
“We spent time hanging out with them and making them love us, bribing them with meal worms. Now they give us 21 eggs a week.”
The chickens are also part of the garden system; helping to clean up areas by eating insects and weeds, plus fertilising the land.
This year, Bayly Terraces, one of 30 properties in the backyards trail, will be hosting a Treasure Hunt for Garden Explorers on October 29 and 30, and November 5 and 6.
Chanelle, the curator of the pictorial collection at Puke Ariki, says she was inspired by the Ruru Scavenger Hunts available to people who visit the combined library, museum and i-SITE in central New Plymouth.
Visitor experience is important to Chanelle, who observed the dynamics of families who came to the garden last year.
“Kids were either bored, hangry or they were running amok harassing the cat,” she says referring to Zee, their 12-year-old tabby.
Often, parents cut short their visits because their kids were unsettled.
The treasure hunt will give families something to do together and everyone who takes part will get a packet of Egmont Seeds to take home, she says.
“It’s based around the native trees and native bird visitors in the garden.”
People can also enter a competition to win an insect hotel made by The Little Insect Farm in Eltham.
Chanelle and Dave bought Bayly Terraces four years ago and have been slowly transforming it into an edible garden.
“It was very beautifully planted. The previous owner had been here 15 years and taken care to put in boardwalks, seating areas and our urban forest down the back, but it wasn’t a productive garden. For us that was the key thing.”
One of the turning points for Chanelle was seeing Korito, Dee Turner’s permaculture garden in Westown. The highly productive food garden is part of the Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival, on from October 28 to November 6. The festival, the backyards trail and Taranaki Arts Trail are collaborating with each other to present 10 days of the region at its bountiful best.
Chanelle’s appetite for growing food increased after doing one of Dee’s weekend permaculture courses and then getting the teacher around for a consultation at Bayly Rd.
“She encouraged me to put in fruit trees. Once you get going, it becomes really addictive seeing how much you can fit in, like playing Tetris with food.”
Outside, is a laden lemon tree brought back to life, and then an area transformed from hedges and a stone courtyard into an orchard of 16 different fruit varieties.
“For me, being able to grow my own food… there’s something really powerful about it,” says Chanelle, who is extremely aware of the climate crisis and the importance of sustainability.
She’s even taken over unused raised beds at the bottom of the neighbour’s section and put a gate in the fence for access.
“I do the work, he provides the space and we share the produce.”
During a tour around the garden, Tūī, a 4-year-old rescued greyhound, follows like an elegant shadow.
Below the orchard, an area, once overgrown with flax and a twin-trunk cedar, has been cleared to become the tea garden.
It’s now flourishing with a kawakawa backdrop and planted with many species that can be steeped and sipped. There is pineapple sage, lemon verbena, mints, horopito, lemon balm, rugosa roses for the rosehips and two Camellia sinensis plants, the leaf source of regular tea.
“It’s a beautiful place to sit and relax. I will come down here with a cup of boiled water and pick leaves to go straight into the cup,” she says. “Or straight into the gin and tonic. It’s also a gin garden.”
Down we go again, into a verdant world of dappled light, leaf litter and boardwalks. “This is what we fell in love with. It’s planted with a mixture of natives and exotics.”
This includes a towering unproductive but beautiful avocado tree planted in the 1980s, when the partner of a friend lived at the address.
“For me it’s special because it connects with the history and the people I know and love, who lived here,” she says.
They have also added a splash of colour down here, painting the retaining wall orange to match flaming clivias growing in rich soil created by years of accumulated leaf litter.
Stand still to hear birdsong sweeten the air, for this is home for tūī, kererū, tauhou (waxeyes), ruru, pīwakawaka.
“Our aim is for it to be left as a wild area for birds, insects and copper skinks.”
But invasive ladder fern will be pulled out to create space for a perennial foraging food forest and they plan to add mushrooms to their growing menu.
“You can step out your back door and go ‘shopping’ for your ingredients, five minutes before dinner. It tastes so good,” she says.
While she is part of the sustainable backyards trail, Chanelle has helped organise two events for the Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival.
The first is a sold-out flower arranging workshop at Puke Ariki to be led by florist Sarah Good from The Good Flower Studio. This ties in with an exhibition featuring works by her ancestor, botanical artist Fanny Good (1860-1950), on from April 7 to November 5, 2023.
Titled State of Nature: Picturing the Silent Forest, the exhibition will feature Fanny’s work in the context of bush clearing and deforestation in colonial Taranaki.
Chanelle has also been instrumental in putting together an Audio Described Garden Tour for people with low vision. It’s the first time this event has been part of the garden festival, which turns 35 this year.
“The aim of audio description is to create a picture with words for people who are visually impaired,” she says
The bus tour, on November 2, will visit Hirst Cottage, Hurworth Country Garden, The Yews, Waiongana Gardens and Pukekura Park. Puke Ariki staff are the audio describers.
During the first 2020 lockdown, the staff had online audio description training with Judith Jones from Te Papa. “It was incredible,” Chanelle says.
“We take people on a journey to think about smells, textures and scale. You are going beyond pure description – it’s almost an artform in itself.”
This story is published as a partnership between the Taranaki Daily News and the arts festival charitable trust TAFT.
© 2022 Stuff Limited


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